Daniel Korski

The new Iraq is beginning to look a lot like the old

The new Iraq is beginning to look a lot like the old
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Nouri Maliki was last night appointed Iraqi prime minister after the country broke the world record for the slowest process of government formation. Eight months passed between the election and the formation, beating even previous Belgian records of procrastination.

Hours after his appointment, however, members of al-Iraqiya, the main Sunni-backed alliance led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, walked out of the Parliament. Their concern: Maliki's failure to do as he had promised and reinstate four Sunni leaders who had been banned for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

Despite the walk-out, Jalal Talabani was elected president and handed the task of forming a government to the largest coalition, the National Alliance – a merger of Mr Maliki's State of Law coalition and the Iraqi National Alliance of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The US was quick to announce yesterday's developments as a success – but the victory is decidedly Phyrric. Al-Iraqiya had won two more seats than State of Law in March's election, and ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has been seen as far better placed than Nouri Maliki to create an independent Iraq.

But Maliki, with considerable Iranian help, managed to cut a deal with President Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shia Moqtada Sadr.

This outcome does not bode well for Iraq, the US or Europe. Even Maliki's former national security advisor, Mowaffak Rubaie, has expressed concern about Iraq's future. He told the LA Times's Ned Parker: "I personally am worried that our whole political program is going down the drain ... What did we come for? I campaigned for three things throughout my life: democracy, federalism-community rights and human rights. The Shia are enjoying our community rights but we are persecuting the other community. We are getting closer and closer to a one-party state."


While the US debates who "won" Iraq – George W Bush because of the surge, David Petraeus on the ground, or Barack Obama because of his withdrawal – Iraq is in fact moving closer to an Iranian-aligned, Shia-run, one-party state.